Author: mogwai_do, aka This Field Is Blank. Isn't It?
Written for: mackiedockie
Characters/Pairings: Joe, Methos
Rating: PG-13 for naughty language
Warnings: A little gore?
Author's Notes: Thanks to Chris for the beta. 11th October 2007
Summary: A Quickening and a couple of almost innocent bystanders.
The smell of burning flesh was as distinctive as it was evocative. Fortunately, the acrid smoke of the fires bore little in common with the suffocating verdancy of jungles long past. Still, the memories hovered just at the edges of his awareness waiting to be acknowledged. Joe ignored them.
The Highlander had left a few minutes earlier, Challenge won, and oblivious to the chaos left in his wake. Joe made his way carefully down the once-stable steps. He'd gone for the high vantage point, stupidly in retrospect, given the way what was left of his legs complained about the climb.
Still, he'd had a good view of the Challenge, even got some good shots before the Quickening had struck. The unexpected bonus was that he had also been out of range of the containers that the Quickening had sparked off. Whatever it was they had held, it had stunk to high heaven, but at least it had burned out quickly.
Joe was reasonably sure it was as safe now as it was going to be. Drawing the fine line between being caught by your Immortal and being caught by the emergency services was all part and parcel of a Watcher's job. He liked to think he’d become quite good at it over the years. He descended another staircase into the smoke and his stomach roiled at the stronger smell - chemical stink, charred flesh and the ghost of remembered jungles.
He hadn't seen any cars near this section of the plant when they’d arrived, but it wasn't beyond the realms of possibility that some hapless night watchman had been caught in the fury of the Quickening. Joe followed his nose down the last set of steps, then his ears as he reached the ground floor. The plant echoed weirdly: pops and hisses still escaped the smoking wreckage and fires continued to burn fitfully. Threading beneath it all was a low, irregular modulation that sounded to him like a voice: not loud enough to have been meant to be heard, more the kind of voice that spoke because it was the only release that person had.
The ground crunched beneath his shoes, making balance a precarious thing for someone with no feeling in their feet. Joe stopped abruptly, hearing a loud, hacking cough as he neared the remnants of what must have been some kind of vat before it had exploded. He listened hard, trying to zero in on the sound, but for a long minute he only heard his own heartbeat. Then the speaker seemed to get their breath back.
"Shit!" The voice was high and hoarse, but as it continued its litany of profanity it regained its normal tone, "Oww. Shit, shit, shit."
Joe frowned: he knew that voice. "Adam?" because you could never be too careful.
The litany abruptly cut off, "Joe? Ow! Shit. Stay there."
Adam’s voice was a mixture of pain and just enough panic that no way was Joe going to stay put. "Adam, where are you?"
Silence for a moment then a loud crash of metal. It made Joe jump; he’d been straining to hear his friend's uneven breathing, but at least the crash gave him a direction. He headed purposefully around the remains of the vat. The place was a real mess. "Adam?" he tried again. A stifled gasp of pain off to his right and Joe was moving, "Adam?" he repeated, sure he was close.
"Fuck, Joe - I told you to stay back." Adam's voice had a high edge of panic to it that had precisely the reverse effect his words were meant to have. Joe sped up as much as he dared. He rounded a bank of equipment and stopped dead, his breath catching in a throat already rough from the smoke in the air. "Adam?" it came out as little more than a whisper.
"Hey, Joe. Fancy meeting you here." Adam's voice was a tired attempt at levity and Joe studied him carefully from head to foot. Half of Adam’s face was streaked with soot; a few red cracks showing through where the heat had split the skin. His left arm was much the same where it had obviously been raised in protection. His exposed hand was a webwork of fissures: red seeping through the black. A huge, twisted metal plate was too close to have been anything but the crash Joe had heard earlier and given the smears of red on its surface, it had probably been on top of Adam until recently. All that wasn't what stopped him in his tracks though.
Adam's jeans were a shredded mass, no longer blue but soaked red. Joe glimpsed more than one splinter of white through the tears in the fabric and forced himself to swallow. "What the hell are you doing here?" It came out a lot louder than he had intended, and a lot angrier.
Adam's face paled abruptly and for a moment Joe thought he might not be the only one who was going to throw up, but then the look faded and it was the World's Oldest Immortal looking out from behind the bloodshot green eyes. "Same as you, I'd imagine, Joe."
Joe forced back the fear and the anger, though it burned his throat worse than the smoke had. "Where were you?" his voice came out oddly subdued.
Methos gestured upward with a nod of his head, "Up there. Regrettably, pretty much directly above that vat behind you - or what's left of it."
Joe looked up, seeing the melted and broken grille of the floor above where Methos must have fallen through - but not before the shrapnel of the exploding vat had ripped his legs to pieces.
Joe moved a bit closer, suddenly far more aware of the instability of his steps on the uneven surface. He nodded at the mess that was Methos’ legs, trying for casual and not sure he succeeded, "You going to be alright?"
Methos screwed his face up, but his expression was obscured by the dirt and the blood. He looked away when he spoke and his voice was almost inaudible against the background noise, "Yeah, in a while."
Joe sat heavily on a piece of junk that might have been a lockup once; his eyes were burning and he gripped his cane so hard that his hand turned white. For a long minute neither spoke, listening instead to the pings and cracks of cooling metal.
"What sort of timescale are we looking at?" Joe asked softly, not looking at his friend.
He heard the rasp of cloth on metal that was Methos’ shrug, "Not long – half an hour at most."
The nausea was back and Joe took a deep breath; the Immortal was as helpless now as Joe himself had once been. Joe reached into his pocket and checked his gun then he did what any good friend would do: he rapped his cane out quickly, bouncing it off the half-melted remains of Methos’ hiking boot. "Does it hurt?"
Methos hissed in a quick breath and looked at Joe with surprising honesty, "Like a motherfucker."
The uncommon language was vaguely reassuring and Joe stirred some of the debris with his cane, "Yeah."
He felt Methos’ eyes on him, but he refused to look up.
“I can shut up if you like?” Methos offered cautiously as if afraid of another rap.
Joe shrugged and eventually looked back at Methos, “I’d rather you didn’t actually. Even knowing you’ll mend, it’s nice to know I wasn’t the only one who thought it hurt like a son of a bitch.”
Methos half-smiled, “In that case, if you’ll excuse me…”
Joe watched in vague horror as Methos reached down to one of the sharp white splinters poking through the rents in the blood-soaked cloth and slowly pushed it back out of sight. He looked up at the Immortal’s face and saw the pallor and the gritted teeth. There was a faint, muffled sound that he didn’t want to try to describe, but it was followed by a far more identifiable, “Fuck!” from Methos.
Joe watched Methos’ leg twitch and looked up to see his grimace. “I think the soles of my boots have melted to my feet.”
Joe winced; it had been a long time since he’d had feet, but he could appreciate how much it was likely to hurt. He saw Methos’ hand reach for another of the exposed shards of bone and he looked away, making a pretence of studying their surroundings. It was a bit harder to ignore the sound this time and Methos’ swearing, but when it had finally devolved into harshly panted breaths, Joe spoke. “You know, someone needs to tell Mac that chemical plants might be remote, but they’re not really sensible locations to have a Quickening.”
Methos gave a breathless chuckle, “Do you want to tell him or shall I?”
Joe looked at Methos aghast, “And explain what we were both doing here? Are you insane?”
Methos shrugged, the movement oddly fluid, and he shifted his legs a little, wincing all the while, “Frequently – but not so’s you’d notice.”
Joe opened his mouth to comment and paused, hearing sirens in the distance. He looked across at Methos, who had obviously heard them too, “You well enough to move?”
Methos’ expression spoke eloquently, but he braced his hands on the ground and struggled to get his legs beneath him. Joe watched the painful manoeuvring for a few seconds before standing and moving carefully closer. He braced himself as much as he could and offered his free hand. Methos eyed it warily for a moment, then reached up and grasped it firmly.
Joe could feel the roughness of sword calluses and the faint trembling of the rest of Methos’ body transmitted through the vice-like grip. He met Methos’ eyes and then heaved back as Methos pushed forward and up. The result was an armful of Immortal and a kind of precarious balance where they were leaning into each other for support, but at least they were both upright.
Methos’ grip slackened enough to allow Joe to regain his footing securely, then a long arm wrapped around his shoulders and he felt at least a portion of Methos’ weight. He suspected it was probably not as much as it needed to be, but realistically he couldn’t support the weight of a full grown man on a pair of plastic legs and a cane.
The first step resulted in a popping sound somewhere in the vicinity of Methos’ ankle, but he only hissed a breath and briefly tightened his grip. He looked at Joe and their eyes met from a distance of only inches. “You realise of course that this is all Mac’s fault,” Methos sighed with equal amounts resignation and humour.
“No, it ain’t,” Joe responded as he began to carefully move them forward, knowing it wasn’t a serious complaint. “It’s just the price we pay for caring.”
Methos rolled his eyes as he took small, careful steps, “We should bill him.”
Joe grinned, “I already do.”
Methos turned his head to look at him green eyes alight with interest, “Oh?”
Joe didn’t meet Methos’ gaze, instead focusing on the debris-strewn floor as they inched forwards, “What? You think Scotch really costs what I charge him?”
Methos laughed out loud, “Joseph Dawson - I hope he knows what he’s got in you, because I’d pay a lot more than over the odds on a case of scotch for a friend like you.”
Joe flicked a sly glance at his friend, “What makes you think you don’t?” And in the back of his head the phantom sounds of the jungle were replaced by the echoes of Methos’ warm chuckle.
30th November 2007